Apple TV, The good and the bad.

Last year, I bought a Sony Bravia widescreen lcd high definition tv. The trouble is, I do not have digital cable, or any high definition tv service. I don’t have an HD dvd player, or Blu Ray either. What I do have is a broad band internet connection. I decided against buying a high definition player because the industry cannot agree on a standard. I don’t want to go through the 8-track / cassette fiasco again. When one format clearly wins, I will reevaluate that decision, but for now, no thanks.

My local cable company offers little in the way of HD programming that I find useful, or worthwhile, so I was not willing to spend the monthly fees they ask for such little value.  StarzPlay downloads works ok, but is definitely not HD, as their content is all 480i resolution.   I did see one thing that interested me though. When visiting the Apple store to purchase my iMac, I noticed the Apple TV.

Apple TV is actually an Apple computer set up specifically to download movies from the iTunes store, and to display other media content from your Apple PC.   Some people have been able to hack the Apple TV and turn it into a general purpose PC, but that is another story for another time.

I decided to get the Apple TV, and it arrived in a couple of days.  Setup was easy, and connection to my Sony Bravia was a simple plug-in with an HDMI cable.  The unit is controlled by a simple IR remote, the same type that comes with an Apple iMac computer.  Once my iTunes account was set up, I downloaded my first HD movie through the Apple TV.  It took over 2 hours on my G10 broadband connection to finish loading; but the playback was excellent.  I want more HD!

Some of the movies in the iTunes library can be rented, and some can be purchased, and some can be either.  I am not interested in buying movies, and I find that a significant portions of the ones I wish to see can only be purchases.  This is a negative for iTunes and the Apple Tv.  Also, a downloaded movie can sit on the unit for up to 30 days, but once one starts to view it, it expires in 24 hours.  This I can live with though.

Another negative is that the unit often comes on by itself when I access iTunes on my iMac.  I am constantly having to turn it off again, and I find that annoying.  The unit also creates a lot of heat, enough to be used as a coffee warmer when it is on (not recommended).

My biggest complaint though is lack of available rental titles in the iTunes library.  Because of this, I am not sure I would purchase the unit if I had a ‘do over’.  I suppose there are licensing reasons, but it seems to me that any movie in the library should be available for rent.  I suggest closely examining the iTunes store and the new releases every week to see if the available content will be suitable for you.

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